Reducing C02 : On the right track

Every time we open a newspaper or turn on the television, we hear about the damage that we are causing our planet, and it is easy to start to feel like no matter how hard we try, we cannot combat the destruction of our lifestyles. So, whenever there is good news, it needs to be spread like wildfire, to encourage those who have been tirelessly working towards a better future and inspire those on the cusp of change.

In a recent article by environmentalist Lester Brown, author of, “World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse”, he illustrates that not only are U.S. carbon emissions down by 7% from the last four years, but, provided we stay on the current path, we can expect to see further drops in the future. Due to successful campaigns by local and national organizations, the use of coal in the United States has been reduced through the cessation of building new coal plants and the planned closing of nearly 70 coal plants in the near future. Simply by looking at the economics of coal fueled energy, the cost of damage from coal burning is greater than the value of the electricity it produces, and in this economy, the United States cannot afford fiscally-inefficient industries.

As coal plants are closing, there is an increase in alternative forms of energy generation, such as solar, wind and geothermal, in the United States. According to Brown’s article, “Over the last four years, more than 400 wind farms- with a total generating capacity of 27,000 megawatts- have come online, enough to supply 8 million homes with electricity. Nearly 300,000 megawatts of proposed wind projects are in the pipeline awaiting access to the grid.” Solar power usage is also on the rise, both commercially and residentially. These trends are very encouraging.

We are also seeing an increase in energy efficient appliances, electronics and vehicles. With the rise in energy standards for light bulbs, leading to the elimination of inefficient incandescent bulbs by 2014, the electricity use for light bulbs alone with be reduced by 80%, much of this happening sooner rather than later. This, coupled with the advancement of technology in energy efficient appliances, will lead to a 5% reduction of energy usage per person within this decade.  Vehicular energy standards are mandating that, “new cars sold in 2025 use only half as much fuel as those sold in 2012.” People are also spending less and less time in cars. More are relying on public transportation or carbon neutral forms of transport, or simply traveling less. Plug-in hybrids and all-electric cars are also contributing to the decline in gasoline usage.

Environmentalists, and more importantly Americans in general, can rejoice in the good news that we are slowly making the right choices towards reducing our carbon emissions. It is predicted that we could reduce our carbon emissions by as much as 30% by 2020! While we are nowhere near where we need to be, every step in the right direction brings us closer to a future where carbon emissions will be a mistake from our past.